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Energy & Environment
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Duke Energy Carolinas Rate Cut Means Increase For Households

David Boraks

Electricity rates will increase slightly for thousands of households in central and western North Carolina even though state regulators rejected Duke Energy's most recent rate hike request, the company said Wednesday.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission last month rejected the company's request to increase power bills by an average 8.5 percent, and ordered the utility to refund $60 million in deferred taxes to customers. Duke Energy said — breaking down the effect of the commission's order — that it will mean a slight decrease overall.

But customers will get a tiny increase immediately and see a 1.2 percent increase added to their bills after four years. The typical household will see its bill rise by about 84 cents a month from around $104, probably as early as this year.

At the same time, industrial and other customers will see their bills cut by an average of 1.6 percent to nearly 4 percent.

The Duke Energy Carolinas subsidiary has about 2 million customers.

State regulators also decided last month Duke Energy Carolinas can start charging its customers for cleaning up storage pits holding potentially toxic coal ash, the residue left after burning coal for electricity. The company is passing along the $546 million in coal ash cleanup costs incurred from 2015 to 2017.

But the regulator also found fault with Duke Energy's management practices and assessed a $70 million penalty. Commissioners wrote that the company's "irresponsible management" of its ash pits "has resulted in cost increases greater than those necessary to adequately maintain and operate its facilities."

On another controversial billing issue, commissioners decided Duke Energy could recover the $480 million it paid for planning, licensing, financing and other costs for its proposed Lee nuclear plant in Cherokee County, South Carolina.

Duke Energy disagreed with some of the commission's decisions in its rate request, but plans to accept the ruling rather than appeal it, company spokeswoman Meredith Archie said in an email.

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